Monday, October 25, 2010

Testimonials Continue to Pour In For Our DIY Leather Restoration System

Here are two e-mail the I received this week from our DIY leather restoration clients.  It is consistent with the experience we hear about over and over again.  

Here's the first....

 It's been a few months now since I dyed my sofa & chair...                                                         
               Have to admit "I was scared to death"
Well it came out GREAT !   Everyone was amazed ------  because it was a water base I was afraid it would wash off after awhile...... however I just wiped up some spots from the front where my dog , who has allergies & rubs herself,  No problem........  I have a friend who owns a white 3 piece sectional that she loves, but it sure does need help. I'm sure you'll be hearing from her in the near future.
Just thought I'd drop you a line and say ---THANK YOU   
                                               BETTY C.

Here's the second....

I just want to send a quick note to thank you for this great experience. My sectional looks awesome and everyone comments on it now. Please see attached before and after...
Please thank Jason for helping me with the print, once I got home and started doing it, I was very confident and did not stop until done. :)
Thanks again and I will be referring you to all my friends and family.

Theresa P.

Copyright  2010, Kevin Gillan

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Shoddy Products Taint the Leather Restoration Industry

It can be frustrating and confusing for consumers who try a leather furniture restoration process on a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) basis.  The market place is loaded with products that simply fail, giving the entire industry a black-eye.  The truth is a "one-size-fits-all" solution may occasionally work but can not be effective for everybody.  

At a professional level, no two leather furniture restoration projects are treated identically.  The products  and processes applied vary based on the type of leather and specific issues present in each particular  piece. Variables like body oil accumulation, cat claw damage, fading, print coat failure, etc. make each project unique.  

This applies to DIY  projects as well. A successful DIY project requires a customized solution.  The combination of the right products and  "know-how" is essential.  The person assembling a kit must have direct hands-on knowledge so he/she can analyze pictures of a project and prepare a customized DIY kit.  The "know-how" is shared via a combination of DVD or internet based video and well written instructions.   This is the essence of the Advanced Leather Solutions DIY kit.

To amplify the point here is the text of an e-mail I recently received. 

"We have two dark blue leather couches from Sealy. We purchased them 9 years ago.  I purchased a leather restoration kit from a place online that I no longer remember. The first color mix they sent me I thought worked well for the one couch so I ordered another kit from them for the second couch. The mix was a different color and also didn’t adhere as well and left a couple cushions almost ‘plasticky’ is best I can describe. I followed the directions the same for both couches, so not sure what the deal was. I contacted the company, they sent me a new kit with better looking dye and more of that alcohol based ‘cleaner’ to try to get as much of the other kit off as possible. I redid the second couch, even though 2 cushions still have a stiffer feel. That process held for a about 2 years. Kind of. 

"I ordered another kit from another site  (who have their label on the underside of the cushions along wit a bunch of tags with ‘S’ on them), and ordered enough to do both couches together. That seemed to work better than my first experience. But I see there is a lot of fading and worn spots from where you sit now. They need to be done again. 

"Is this normal to have to redo the restoration every 18 months? I have a lot of brown faded in the cracks and where heads have rested on the backs etc. Do your products guarantee to adhere better? I did the cleaning and very light sanding and several light coats (I used a sponge brush instead of the spray can adaptor). On the 3 cushions from the second couch I have deeper cracks in the leather from the bad attempt. The leather is normally very soft and supple. 

"Thank you for any assistance you can offer. We really like the comfort of the couches and they are still in very good condition minus the maintenance with the pigment adhering. We would like to keep them for years to come but would like them to look nice too."

The key questions....

Is this normal to have to redo the restoration every 18 months?  --- No, it's NOT normal.

Do your products guarantee to adhere better? ---- This is the same system we use professionally for 23 years.  If it failed that quickly we'd have been out of business a long time ago.  the problem you now have is leather that is coated with who-knows-what.  If that's failing, then my system on top will do very little good as the existing color coating is failing and will continue to fail.  So, if you want quality results you'll have to strip thoroughly. 

I have a lot of brown faded in the cracks and where heads have rested on the backs etc.  ---  Right... you have accumulation of body oils in the leather.  That should have been extracted out first!  Did either of these companies give you an oil extraction procedure?  Oil is in the leather, not on the leather.  Using a cleaner to resolve body oils is like trying to clean a tattoo form your skin.  Our system includes an oil extraction chemistry for that  purpose.

I did the cleaning and very light sanding and several light coats (I used a sponge brush instead of the spray can adaptor). ---- Our system is a wipe on system that includes a critical component - a primer that promotes quality adhesion.

 On the 3 cushions from the second couch I have deeper cracks in the leather from the bad attempt.   --- I would need to see photos of the cushions.  If the cracking is into the epidermal layer of the hide, then your leather is ruined and those leather panels would have to be replaced.  We can do that for you as well.  If the cracking is just surface, then the leather can be saved.

The leather is normally very soft and supple. ---  With our system, we think of leather on two levels, visual and tactile.  In our system we include a specialized chemistry that penetrates deep into the leather fibers, bring back suppleness as much as the leather will allow.

What separates Advanced Leather Solutions from the rest of the pack?  WE DO THIS WORK PROFESSIONALLY.  We're not a marketing company.  We actually restore peoples furniture as our main reason for existing.  If we restore a $15,000 Roche Bobois sofa, it better be a permanent solution.  

Our DIY system is a derivative of what we've been doing professionally for 23 years. We bring to the table a  working knowledge of the chemistry and process.  We know for example the system will fail if there is body oils present and the  oil extraction process is ignored. 

This allows us to customize each kit to the specific needs of the client and is the foundation of our success with our DIY system.

Copyright  2010,  Kevin Gillan

Thursday, October 14, 2010

When Leather and Vinyl are paired together - Bad Things Happen

Look at this picture...

What you see is a leather seat top that is sewn to a vinyl side panel.  The vinyl side panel has broken down. Once vinyl gets to this state of deterioration it cannot be effectively repaired.  Note that on the leather side of the seam, everything is normal. This is a clear example of how quality top grain leather will outlast vinyl.  All of the stress of weight baring is on the leather panel.  The side panel is simply flexing as a person sits on the seat cushion, yet the deterioration of the vinyl is plainly obvious.  This is a fairly common manufacturing process to intended reduce cost for the manufacturer.  It is most commonly found on motion furniture (recliners).

Here's a close up of the same picture.

Note that the erosion of the vinyl is complete along the entire length of the seam.

Why does this happen?

The answer lies in the attributes of both materials.  Leather is organic.  It is infused with oils at the tannery to impart suppleness.  Leather breathes.  As such it looses its moisture (oils) through evaporation.  Vinyl is a synthetic byproduct of the petrochemical industry.  Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is typically a solid.  Think of the plastic garden pipe used in home irrigation system. PVC pellets are heated and mixed with an oil then this mixture flows over a cloth and when dry is now vinyl as found on furniture.  The oil in vinyl is not molecularly bound to the vinyl molecule.  Its free floating.

As leather looses its moisture through evaporation, to equalize that moisture loss, it wicks the oils from the vinyl side of the seam.  Thus oils vacate the vinyl, as they are sucked into the leather.  This loss of oil gradually reduces the vinyl to its original solid state and it slowly flakes away as shown in the picture.  The thinner the vinyl, the quicker this will happen.

Once the vinyl coating of the cloth substrate disappears, it cannot be replaced through a repair.  The only solution is to remove the offended panel and replace with new.  To do that requires disassembly of the furniture which balloons the cost beyond reasonable.

This vinyl failure is one of the perils of a leather-vinyl combination.  Most people are not aware that components of there furniture are vinyl.  Generally the piece is sold as  "leather furniture" when in fact it's part leather and part vinyl.  When I see this condition I recommend that the client not invest further in the piece.  It's time to get new furniture.

If you have leather and vinyl on the same piece of furniture, then to prevent this from becoming your problem, keep the leather moisturized.  Properly and frequently apply leather conditioner (SG - 25 moisturizer) to ensure that the leather has no need to wick the oils from the vinyl.

Copyright 2010 Kevin Gillan

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ink on Leather? Beware of Home Remedies

A consumer has a new Ashley Furniture leather sofa that has suffered an pen mark (ink) on it.  The owner of the piece did an Internet search and read that hairspray would pull out ink from leather.  This picture shows the results.  The hairspray didn't pull out the ink, instead it stripped the outer color coating (print coat) in a few places around the ink.  Note the light spots.  That's the exposed base color coat after the print coat was dissolved by the hairspray.  

What actually happened when the hairspray hit the leather?  Hairspray has alcohol as an ingredient along with a bunch of other nasty stuff including versions of lacquer.  Alcohol is a solvent that will strip color from leather.  The hairspray theory is based on the alcohol's ability to pull the color of the ink out of the leather.  However as you see, the hairspray did strip color, just the wrong color.  It dissolved the color of the leather.

The unfortunate fact is alcohol can't discriminate between the coloring on the leather and the ink coloring.  This is exacerbated by this particular leather's weak chemical resistance, a hallmark of Ashley leather furniture.  The broad hairspray pattern hit the leather in a wide swath causing collateral damage. It's like the old military practice of carpet bombing.  Whereas what is needed is precision in attacking just the ink stripe, leaving the surrounding leather unharmed.

There are several strategies to resolve an ink problem.  Keep in mine this key point --- the ink is not harming the leather.  It is strictly an aesthetic issue. Here is the text of an earlier post from my blog that specifically discusses ink on leather.

In the interest of disseminating accurate and complete information about leather furniture restoration and repair, I wrote this post for people who have the common problem of ink on their leather furniture. There's lots of misinformation on the web about ink on leather. So, here are the facts.

Ink on leather? It's a common problem and completely solvable. The only question is if it requires professional attention or, can you resolve the issue yourself.

First, the basics:

1. Ink is primarily a dye. As such the ink has recolored the leather. It is not harmful to the leather. So the problem is strictly aesthetic.

2. If you can get to it quickly, then using a damp cloth, attempt to transfer as much ink off the leather as you can before it sets in the leather. Gently wipe or blot. In a short period of time, the ink travels into the leather. Don’t rub or you’ll push the ink into the leather, and possible rub out the leather’s grain pattern. Keep in mind that once ink penetrates into the leather it essentially has recolored the leather. No amount of aggressive rubbing will change that fact. You might also try a soft artist eraser, gently tracing the ink line. The objective is to pull the ink out before it has a chance to set.

3. Once it is set, removing ink from the leather is NOT a cleaning issue. In almost all cases any cleaner used that is strong enough to pull out the ink, won’t know the difference between the color of the ink and the color of the leather. Aggressive cleaning may pull out the ink, but will also pull out the leather color as well. And, aggressive cleaning chemicals will do more harm (pH damage) to the leather than the ink. 

4. The use of ink sticks or other products advertised to remove ink is risky business. The active ingredient is a solvent intended to neutralize the ink. Its success depends on how sensitive your leather is to chemical intervention. If the finish on your leather is chemically resistant it may work, but then again, A) it may pull the color out of the leather, B) may simply smear the ink around, C) may pull the protective top coat from the leather, D) may not do anything at all. Ink sticks and the like are clearly a “Buyer Beware” issue. Be careful.

5. Consider this --- one attribute of ink is that it migrates. That is to say the ink moves. This means that an accidental ink stripe may be absorbed into the leather and present a gradually fading reference that dissipates within a few weeks. So, a minor ink stripe may disappear of its own accord. Therefore, as time is not critical, leave it alone for a few weeks and see what happens. It may disappear altogether or become faint enough that it is no longer be an issue. However, if there is a high concentration of dye (i.e. permanent marker like a Sharpie pen) or a larger volume (ink spill) then what you see will be there for a long, long time.

6. If it hasn't dissipated on its own accord, or doesn’t responded to your gentle cleaning attempts then it’s probably time to turn it over to a professional. There is a two step process to resolve it. 

A solvent, (e.g. denatured alcohol) is used to neutralize the ink, knowing that it will in all likelihood affect the color of the leather. If you want to try this step yourself, then use a Q-Tip or like device moistened with alcohol and trail down the ink line. Keep turning the Q-Tip to a clean area so that you don’t transfer the ink that has been absorbed by the Q-Tip back on the leather. If the ink has been neutralized, and you haven’t disturbed the color, you’re very lucky. 

If the color has been affected, then it’s on to step # 2. Using an airbrush, and the properly mixed leather color, the offended area is airbrushed and viola - the problem disappears. The final step is to apply a top coat with the air brush. The top coat is the primary protection on the leather and it also dictates the sheen. 

It is important to note that simply coloring over the ink is likely not effective. Remember, one of ink’s attributes is migration. If you simply color over, then the ink will migrate up through the color coating and present itself all over again.

Once ink has set, ink removal from leather generally requires a professional as the key to success is color matching. Without experience, color matching can be very difficult. A final consideration is the type of leather. The more delicate the leather, the more difficult it will be to extract the ink and apply color so that it is undetectable. For more information about this and other issues associated with leather, go to

Copyright 2009, Kevin Gillan